MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III demanded that the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica) identify the Senate employees whom the agency believes to be the "eyes and ears" of the communist rebellion and tasked to "hijack plans and programs of the government."
"I want Nica to give me the names of the employees and I will have them investigated," Sotto said after Nica chief Alex Paul Monteagudo made the claim in a social media post.
"[Monteagudo] must have been misinformed. I would be the first to sense such if ever [there is truth to the allegations]. I've been [in the Senate] since 1992," said Sotto, who now expressed support for a pending measure criminalizing red-tagging.
"Because of this, I am now inclined to support criminalizing red-tagging," Sotto said, referring to Senate Bill No. 2121, or the proposed "Act Defining and Penalizing Red-tagging" filed by Sen. Franklin Drilon.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson objected to the proposal to investigate Senate employees affiliated with the Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon (Senado) union because the group was a legitimate union.
"I don't think the Senate leadership should take action, drastic or otherwise. As long as their grievances are legitimate, reasonable and properly brought to our attention, we will listen and take the necessary and appropriate action," he said.
But Drilon and Senators Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima and Francis Pangilinan deplored Monteagudo for his unproven accusations.
"We strongly condemn the red-tagging of the union of Senate employees and we vehemently denounce government officials who continue to label, brand, vilify, and harass individuals and organizations, such as Senado, as state enemies and subversives," the senators said.
"This is not only a baseless attack and vilification of the employees, but of the entire institution of the Senate which they represent," they added.
In a separate statement, Senado denied Monteagudo's allegation in his post and rejected accusations of any "affiliation or connection" with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army or National Democratic Front.
They said the Nica chief's post, which they branded as a "blatant attack against the union," was in retaliation to Senado's earlier statement denouncing a memorandum of the Department of the Interior and Local Government which supposedly red-tagged "legitimate and progressive organizations and unionists."
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